Not So Zealous?

My dear friend wrote this:

You need a blog post on devoting time to reading with children! Especially for the non-reader parents who wish for their children to love reading! Really, I find that I have so many things I could be doing in my day… We’re non-stop around here, it seems. Grabbing a few books and snuggling on the couch mid afternoon is not as second nature as I wish it were. I parents did this with me exactly zero times. I grew up not enjoying reading at all. There are so many factors at play but I think that’s one of them. I just can’t seem to want to carve out the time bad enough. I was a lot better at it when we had 1-2 kids. We read much more frequently than we do now. The house is filled with so much chaos. Constantly, it seams… I’m struggling to just through the end of the day.tragically, book/reading time falls way at the bottom of the totem pole.

And to that I would say this:

Be free from the guilt!  If you aren’t a natural bibliophile, you aren’t a bad parent.  If for whatever reason, you did not grow up doing much reading, you can still impart a beautiful gift to your kids.  If sitting down and reading to a child feels like a chore… that’s okay!  Here’s a few brief tips for my less than bibliozealous friends:

  1. Fake it ’til you make it.  Number one thing you can possibly do is to not let on your displeasure or annoyance to the child!  When I’m not “feeling” like reading to a child, I will say simply “Okay, just pick out one story (and I’ve no problem vetoing long books if I’m not up for it) for tonight.”  But I read it with as much gentleness and interest and love as I can muster.  The last thing we want is for our kids to pick up on stress and let story time become associated with memories of mom being at wit’s end.
  2. Make time.  You have to.  It’s not optional.  Being a good parent does not mean you have to feel warm fuzzies and spend hours in a treehouse together reading all the best books in the world.  But it does mean that you have to read to your child often. I truly believe that.  And I would say a few times a week, if you can’t manage daily.  It doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes.  But that investment of time will pay off HUGE dividends in the end.  If it feels like a chore to you, so be it. Add it to the list right after lunch and before laundry. Somehow, make some kind of routine time for it… and remember rule #1.
  3. Read books about books.  I’m currently working on a post about the best books about books available.  Reading great literature guides and other things will help you to warm up to books in general and get excited about reading.  Look for that within the month hopefully.
  4. Stock up on audio books. While this can’t replace a parent who’s not interested in reading… it can help tremendously.  The biggest thing is simply having a stock on hand!  Invest in a bunch now and keep them in a place (if they’re not mp3 files) where you will see them and remember to use them.
  5. Pray.  Seriously.  I think reading is so important that it’s worth praying to God that He help you find the time, energy and patience to make it happen.  If a child is raised to be interested in the truth and raised with a healthy appreciation (if not love) for reading… they can always find their way back to the Truth about Him.  The vast majority of fallen-away or lukewarm Christians I know, are non-readers.  Our children will be attacked.  They will be tempted to turn from God.  Reading opens up a whole powerful arsenal they can use to equip their minds with the proper defenses and truths about what nobility is and what goodness is and ultimately, what truth is. 
  6. Don’t give up!  Don’t just be tempted to think, “Well, I’m no good at this.  It’s a constant struggle.  I can never make it to the library. There is no time… etc.” Keep plugging away at it.  Seeds will be sewn even if you can’t see to buds yet…